going, going, gone …

Shenzhen’s mayor Xu Zhengheng (徐宗衡简历) has been arrested for graft and yesterday the resume of the new  mayor Wang Rong (王荣简历) was broadcast on televisions throughout the city, including on street corners, buses, and taxis.

And not even with much of a wimper, let alone bang. What has been interesting is the lack of conversation about the scandal. Maybe people haven’t spoken to me about the topic because I’m foreign, but it could also be because Shenzhen people take corruption to be business as usual. When the topic did come up, most complained that Xu Zhengheng had gone too far (太过分), or that maybe somebody was gunning for him, or maybe that possibly didn’t have any friends in Beijing. The general consensus, however, was that if Xu Zongheng had  had been content with five million, even 10 million, all would have been well. However he just “went to far”. Indeed, I heard graft figures as high as “several hundred millions (上亿)” for himself and even more for his “network”. Rumors rumors…

The most interesting analysis came from one of my better connected friends who said that this case showed that there was a clear difference between “the people’s will (民意)” and “righteousness (正义)”.  He thought the arrest of the mayor was a good sign (of oversight) and expected to see more arrests follow.  However, in his opinion tolerance for graft and corruption had a deep history in China, so taking a few million, especially if you worked hard for the city wasn’t a problem, but in terms of making China a “just” society more had to be done. He also thought this general tolerance for some level of graft explained the difference between the amount of tax revenue the city generated and the actual amount of money going in and out of the banks. How, he wondered, could the government know, come to terms with, and actually regulate all the economic activity in Shenzhen, let alone Guangdong and the rest of the country if at every level the “people’s will” allowed for leaders to take an unreported portion of the profits for themselves?

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